11 weird spelling facts

The English language is just plain strange sometimes. Here are some examples of the biggest head-scratching oddities.

Not to put too fine a point on it, English spelling rules are just weird.

We have words that sound the same but are spelled differently (such as “their,” “they’re,” and “there”); words with letters that have nothing to do with how the word is pronounced (“brought,” “although”); words that contain silent letters (“gnat,” “pneumonia”); and words that simply don’t follow any spelling rules.

Here’s a look at 11 weird, random facts about English spelling. Not sure this will make our jobs as writers and editors any easier, but it’s a nice distraction.

1. The English language has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 distinct sounds, more than any other language. (Source: Learn English Spelling)

2. The following words violate the “i before e” rule or its exceptions: seize, weird, neither, either, foreign, sovereign, forfeit, counterfeit, leisure, heifer, protein, height, sleight, feisty, seismograph, and kaleidoscope.

3. You can spell out all the numbers from 1 to 99 without using the letter A, B, C, or D.

4. If you spell “twelve” in Scrabble, you get 12 points (bonus squares notwithstanding).

5. In an analysis of 18,584 base words (no plural words or words with common suffixes) the letter “q” appears in only 343 words. The letter “e” appears in 16,782 words. (Source: Rinkworks.com)

6. The words alms, amends, doldrums, ides, pants, pliers, scissors, shorts, smithereens, and trousers have no singular form.

7. You and ewe are pronounced the same but have no letters in common.

8. Io is one of the shortest two-syllable words in the English language.

9. The most commonly used word in written English is the. The most commonly used word in spoken English is I. (Source: Rinkworks.com)

10. Misspell appears frequently on lists of commonly misspelled words.

11. A pangram is a sentence that contains all letters of the alphabet, such as “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.”

Spelling aficionados: Any other odd spelling facts to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor and a regular contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her work at impertinentremarks.com.

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